How Human-Centered Design and Empathy Can Transform Digital Experiences
By Fern Phillip-Mahon
The success of any digital experience depends on how well it is received by the customers viewing it. In order to create the most impactful digital experiences, businesses must adopt human-centered design.
Through this empathy-driven approach that prioritizes users’ needs, emotions, and aspirations, content creators can build experiences that resonate with their target audience.
This blog will explain the importance of human-centered design and how putting human experiences at the core of your digital creations can produce a deeper understanding of the customer and yield more revenue for the business.
What is Human-Centered Design?
Human-centered design, also known as user-centered design, is a problem-solving approach that puts people at the center of the design process by taking their preferences and feedback into account. When applied to digital experiences, it enables companies to create experiences that resonate with their audience.
Empathy is the heart of human-centered design, as the approach requires designers to engage and collaborate with their users. By doing so, they can truly understand their needs and wants and tailor experiences specifically to those needs.
Although a key component of the design process and driving innovation, human-centered design isn’t unique to designers but helps drive organizational change.
By following this approach, companies can avoid the ‘launch it and they will come’ problem when building digital experiences. Instead, businesses can make decisions based on feedback from their customers and target audience.
Related Reading: How to Build Brand Trust Using Empathy-based Marketing
Stages of Human-Centered Design
There are four stages to human-centered design: define, ideate, develop, and implement.
The first stage of human-centered design is the define stage. Here, designers aim to better understand their users and what makes them tick. In this stage, designers seek to learn everything they can about their customers using various UX research methods to collect data and observe customer behavior. With the help of interviews, focus groups, diary studies, and other methods, designers can gain access to customer information and establish empathy.
During the ideation phase, designers will apply design thinking tools and brainstorming techniques to turn the data uncovered into tangible design opportunities. Methods such as affinity mapping and Crazy 8s are options for effective brainstorming.
The development stage is where designers can begin prototyping. The best ideas from the brainstorming sessions are chosen and used to create minimal viable products (MVPs). These MVPs are low-cost prototypes that can be used to gather initial feedback from the audience. The development stage is an experimental phase where designers continue to implement feedback about the product until they find the best solution.
In the implementation phase, designers create the final experiences to share with customers. The newly designed experiences are shipped, and further feedback is awaited from the market. However, once a new product or experience has shipped, that doesn’t mean it should remain the same. Instead, it will need to be continually refined and improved upon through continuous testing as businesses strive to enhance the customer experience.
The Difference Between Human-Centered Design and Design Thinking
Design thinking and human-centered design are often confused with each other. However, there is a notable difference.
- Design thinking is another problem-solving approach that focuses on the end user. It is also an iterative approach that places empathy at the heart of the process and helps designers address problems that aren’t well-defined.
- However, design thinking balances customer needs with usability and feasibility considerations by taking available business resources into account.
- As such, the two approaches should be used in conjunction when building new digital products and experiences.
How Human-Centered Design Impacts Digital Experiences
Human-centered provides numerous benefits to digital experience products such as websites and mobile applications, highlighting why businesses should leverage this approach.
Poor design has a negative impact
The most glaring reason to use human-centered design is what will happen if you don’t. 88% of customers likely won’t return to a site after a poor user experience. If the design isn’t appealing to customers, then it will hurt their experience, which can, in turn, harm revenue.
Luckily, human-centered design helps prevent the possibility of a poor UX design. By using this approach, you can know what the user expects to see when visiting a website or interacting with an application and provide that exact experience to them.
Provides a better understanding of the customer
By researching customer likes and dislikes before the design process even begins (and at other stages throughout the customer journey), designers can learn more about their customers. The UX research methods implemented as part of the human-centered design approach provide a deeper understanding of the customer, as there are both qualitative and quantitative methods involved.
As a result, businesses not only get an idea about how many customers are likely to react well to specific designs but can also uncover the deeper emotions driving those preferences.
Experiences created will resonate more with customer
Rather than attempting to create a digital experience because a competitor is doing so or because it worked in the past, human-centered design puts customer needs first. Suppose research in the define and ideate phases tells them that a customer will likely respond to a particular type of design or a specific color. In that case, businesses can create the type of experience their customers truly desire.
Taking an Empathy-Driven Approach to Design
To incorporate human-centered design when building and launching new digital products and experiences, it’s essential to take a walk in a customer’s shoes. Here are some steps to accomplish this using empathy:
- Conduct research and usability studies
Research and usability studies can provide quantitative data that helps with a surface-level understanding of customer behaviors, needs, pain points, and the types of experiences that will solve them. Doing research provides a foundation for actual user data rather than assumptions that can be used to relate to the customer.
- Use active listening to gather qualitative data and feedback from customers
While research and usability studies can provide valuable data about a group of customers, they don’t always paint the whole picture. Active listening involves truly listening to a user and understanding what they are saying before reflecting and responding appropriately. It is an intentional process that puts the entire focus on the user and their needs.
By using active listening, companies can gather useful data and feedback that helps when iterating on experiences. For example, they can get to the core reason why a piece of content resonated with a particular group of customers. They can also understand what specific improvements need to be made to an app that frustrates customers.
- Develop and refine personas to segment customers into the right groups
With the data collected from research and listening, you can create and refine personas and segment customers into the appropriate groups. Enterprises that cater to the needs of hundreds of thousands or millions of customers must be able to categorize them into different groups to keep the user top of mind and ensure that solutions can meet the needs of a broad sample size.
- Leverage data to make informed decisions
Data-driven design and decision-making are crucial in UX design. It helps designers understand how users interact with the product, which features are used the most, and where improvements are needed. Businesses can use additional data to make informed decisions about everything from the types of products and experiences to create to the tools that should be implemented to help reach business goals.
In addition, the data might show that now might be the right time to upgrade to a modern digital experience platform (DXP) or incorporate an A/B testing tool to provide customers with an even better experience.
Create Engaging Experiences with a Human-Centered Design Approach
Human-centered design helps companies create digital experiences based on empathy and a true understanding of the user. Customers need to feel like they’re using a product that’s built for them, and having access to the correct data and knowing how to use it is essential to making that possible.
Content Bloom provides a research and data-driven approach to UI/UX design services that helps businesses create memorable digital experiences across channels. We believe in the power of empathy in design and follow the principles of human-centered design and design thinking. We also leverage industry-leading technologies to optimize your UI/UX design so your customers are never frustrated, no matter which device they choose.
Ready to add empathy to your design and appeal to more customers? Contact us to learn more about how we can help.
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